In this month’s article I’d like to provide some tips and tricks I’ve learned and use to manage remote employees. This topic is near and dear to me, as I am a manager of 14 employees – all of whom are geographically far from me. I have team members located across the globe – across the US and into Mexico, Russia, and Slovakia. Needless to say, there are definitely special considerations for managing such a large, international group. Here are a few things I recommend:
Build solid relationships. While it’s easy to connect with people when you are located in the same office by strolling by their cubicle, seeing them in the lunchroom or even a quick chat by the water cooler, you are required to make an effort in remote situations. It’s important to connect with employees individually so they know you are committed to their professional development and are interested in their successful contribution to the company. Ultimately, it would be great to touch base with each employee on a daily basis, but let’s face it, meetings, and your own projects sometimes don’t make that possible, but make it a goal . . .every day. When you do check in with them, ask pointed questions, like, “What type of roadblocks do you see coming up?”, and “How can I help you overcome these obstacles?” Just asking “How are things going?” will not unearth the problems your employees are trying to solve, and you can’t fix what you don’t know about.
Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! In today’s electronic world there’s a wide range of options here. If you implement video conferencing you can capture tone and body language, which makes it a lot easier to really see how your employees are doing. Instant messaging allows for the real-time exchange of dialog. This is my go- to means of communication with my team. Not only can I check in with people, I can multi-task and work on emails as they are writing their responses. Phone and voicemail, which by today’s standards are “old school” are more personal and at least allow you to hear your employee’s tone of voice, which can help you evaluate their happiness and confidence with their current task load.
Reinforce positive results. Find ways to positively reinforce your remote workers so they repeat performance. As suggested by Mark Murphy from Leadership IQ – dedicate a portion of your team meetings to employee recognition. You can also ask other managers to give your employees recognition, and peers to recognize each other. We have a program in place that allows for this, and it is a great, easy way to motivate people.
Keep your employees accountable. I use a project management system that details all upcoming projects, due date, and estimated hours to complete. This sets the expectations for the employees, and allows me to monitor their work as the project progresses, making status update meetings run smoothly and quickly. When projects are taking longer than we thought we can discuss why: Was it bigger than we thought? Is the employee struggling with getting the job done? Is there a performance issue?
These are just a few things to get you going when you are in the position of managing remote employees. As I mentioned, Mark Murphy from Leadership IQ has some great suggestions. Read more on what he has to say here: https://www.leadershipiq.com/tips-for-managing-remote-employees/.
Posted by Staci Cummings, Senior Content Manager, Epicor University